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From the JAMA Network |

Managing Weight Loss Expectations:  The Challenge and the Opportunity

Zhaoping Li, MD, PhD1,2; David Heber, MD, PhD1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Center for Human Nutrition, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California
2VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, California
JAMA. 2014;311(13):1348-1349. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.1154.
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JAMA Surgery

Expectations for Weight Loss and Willingness to Accept Risk Among Patients Seeking Weight Loss Surgery

Christina C. Wee, MD, MPH; Mary Beth Hamel, MD, MPH; Caroline M. Apovian, MD; George L. Blackburn, MD, PhD; Dragana Bolcic-Jankovic, MA; Mary Ellen Colten, PhD; Donald T. Hess, MD; Karen W. Huskey, MPH; Edward R. Marcantonio, MD, SM; Benjamin E. Schneider, MD; Daniel B. Jones, MD, MS

Importance: Weight loss surgery (WLS) has been shown to produce long-term weight loss but is not risk free or universally effective. The weight loss expectations and willingness to undergo perioperative risk among patients seeking WLS remain unknown.

Objectives: To examine the expectations and motivations of WLS patients and the mortality risks they are willing to undertake and to explore the demographic characteristics, clinical factors, and patient perceptions associated with high weight loss expectations and willingness to assume high surgical risk.

Design: We interviewed patients seeking WLS and conducted multivariable analyses to examine the characteristics associated with high weight loss expectations and the acceptance of mortality risks of 10% or higher.

Setting: Two WLS centers in Boston.

Participants: Six hundred fifty-four patients.

Main Outcome Measures: Disappointment with a sustained weight loss of 20% and willingness to accept a mortality risk of 10% or higher with WLS.

Results: On average, patients expected to lose as much as 38% of their weight after WLS and expressed disappointment if they did not lose at least 26%. Most patients (84.8%) accepted some risk of dying to undergo WLS, but only 57.5% were willing to undergo a hypothetical treatment that produced a 20% weight loss. The mean acceptable mortality risk to undergo WLS was 6.7%, but the median risk was only 0.1%; 19.5% of all patients were willing to accept a risk of at least 10%. Women were more likely than men to be disappointed with a 20% weight loss but were less likely to accept high mortality risk. After initial adjustment, white patients appeared more likely than African American patients to have high weight loss expectations and to be willing to accept high risk. Patients with lower quality-of-life scores and those who perceived needing to lose more than 10% and 20% of weight to achieve “any” health benefits were more likely to have unrealistic weight loss expectations. Low quality-of-life scores were also associated with willingness to accept high risk.

Conclusions and Relevance: Most patients seeking WLS have high weight loss expectations and believe they need to lose substantial weight to derive any health benefits. Educational efforts may be necessary to align expectations with clinical reality.

JAMA Surg. 2013;148(3):264-271. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2013.1048.

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